Friday, March 11, 2011

Ross Gittins and the NDIS

The proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme is a hot topic in Australia at the moment, and a lot of people are weighing in. Today's post was written by Joanna Nicol, who writes at the blog The View From Down Here. Thanks Joanna! 

Joanna Nicol

The Productivity Commission recently released its draft report on Disability Care and Support. I haven't read it yet. It's on the list, along with half a dozen other books, several readings for university and a partridge in a pear tree. It's bad anyway, it is on the list.

The Australian journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald Ross Gittins has quite rightly beaten me to it. And he likes it. This is encouraging especially given that he speaks from an economic viewpoint. The business case for more individualised funding and says some sort of no fault payment to enable participation in the case that I have been arguing needed to be put together. The Productivity Commission has done just that.

The statistics that Gittins quotes are accurate if not conservative;

"It's estimated that about 680,000 people under 65 suffer a severe or profound limitation in their ability to engage in core human activities. Just under half of these have at least a daily need for help with mobility, self-care or communicating with others. But only about 170,000 are using disability services."
 The definitions of “severe" and “profound" might well need some clarification. As I said, these numbers may well be conservative. However, it is a place to start if nothing else.

Much like my earlier piece looking at quotas in Egypt, I appreciate the fact that the discussion seems to be around enabling meaningful participation. News coverage on television and radio on the Insurence scheme here have profiled wheelchair users in the workforce and are using whatever little funding of money they have to pay for the care they need to work and pay their taxes (unclear sentence). The ordinary people argument.

Gittins and others are right. It's not a topic that we want to talk about or even think about. It's scary to think about bad things happening to good people, especially those we love. Politically it is difficult to score points opposing it as well, so you don't tend to get traction in the media unless you’re the Business Council perhaps. Especially given that the topic of disability is just a little too uncomfortable to be a warm fluffy human interest story.

But Australia needs to start having discussions about bigger issues that may not get solved in a week, a year or even an election cycle. Perhaps some will take a generation but this can be the start. Embracing humanity and the “fair go" principle for which we are (or were) known worldwide.

I do think there are some issues with the content of the report. For example I get nervous about another assessment  and which box I might or might not fit into. However seeing disability as a productivity issue for the entire country and not an individualised problem deserving of sympathy only is a big step in the right direction. The locus of responsibility on all of us to contribute (and let  each other do so) is reassuring and the tone of the discussions by those over whom this is not usually a core issue is comforting.

I am starting to feel like my country actually wants my contribution and is prepared to enable me to participate. Nice.

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